PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Talking about fear isn’t easy. That’s why a young woman in Gloucester County is helping kids learn how to do it.
Twenty-year-old Ashley Kulikowski is back in class, reading to first graders at her old school, Dorothy L. Bullock Elementary in Glassboro. Being out and about like this is a big deal to Ashley. When she was 13, she was diagnosed with epilepsy. Ashley was terrified that the next seizure could kill her.
“For years I battled with that fear,” Ashley said. “It consumed me, and I fell into a deep depression.”
Ashley says art helped her overcome her fear. She started an epilepsy fundraising non-profit, Fearless Movement, and then branched out with a program called Art Empowerment, teaching children to express their fears through drawing. She brings a worksheet for them to fill out.
“Whatever you wrote down here that you are overcoming, you are going to draw a picture of it,” she tells the children, and they get to work.
“My fear is the dark,” said one girl.
“Jumping off a wall,” said another boy.
“It’s refreshing to see our students know how to communicate what they’re feeling,” Ashley said.
The first grade classroom teacher, Michelle Rullo, is thrilled that one of her former students has brought the Art Empowerment idea to the next generation.
“Ashley is carrying that through for little kids so they can say, ‘You know, I am afraid of these things, but I don’t have to be forever,'” she said.
Over the last two years, Ashley has brought her Art Empowerment program to other community groups, teenagers, even senior citizens.
Ashley always shares one of her own fears: “Dancing was my fear!” But it’s not anymore, and she’s happy to show it to the kids herself.
Ashley is studying psychology and art and hopes one day to work in a children’s hospital as an art therapist.
You can reach Fearless Movement on its website, if you are interested in donating to Fearless Movement.
There are also on Instagram @fearlessmovement and Facebook @FearlessMovementFM.